My whole career, I’ve typically been the only woman in the room. I never wanted to be the token female, and yet, as I looked around the room, I wondered if I truly belonged. To not feel like an imposter, I developed camouflage so that I could fit in with my male-counterparts. As I talked to several of my female colleagues, we all realized that we all at one point wore the camouflage: some still wear it, others shed it, others wished they had not taken it off. How many more women are struggling with this idea?
The thought that you achieved your position because of a quota that needed filling feels horrible. No competent woman I know ever wants to feel like the “token female.” And Imposter Syndrome is real (Clance and Imes, 1978) when you doubt your abilities and question whether you deserve to be in a position. It applies to both women and men. As a result, when you couple Imposter Syndrome with “tokenism,” women tend to start less secure in their positions than their male peers. This problem is potentially debilitating for women in their early careers.
We need more women in leadership positions because they bring a diversity of thought and a different life experience and approach to problem-solving. So, when is the best time to shed the camouflage and be ourselves?